Richard Nixon is dead, Katharine Graham is dead, even Linda Lovelace is dead. But what about Deep Throat?
Still alive, and still a secret more than a quarter-century after his guidance helped Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein break the Watergate story and unseat a president.
John Dean says he knows Deep Throat’s identity. And the former White House counsel, whose testimony against Nixon was itself a key moment in the Watergate saga, says he will reveal all in “The Deep Throat Brief.” The electronic book will be published June 17, the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in.
“He’s pretty certain he knows who it is,” said Scott Rosenberg, managing editor of the online magazine Salon, which will offer Dean’s book.
Of course, Dean was pretty certain in 1975, when he said Deep Throat was Earl J. Silbert, an original Watergate prosecutor. And he was pretty certain in 1982, when he named Alexander Haig, who was eventually Nixon’s chief of staff and Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state.
Silbert and Haig denied it. This is to be expected. Everyone denies being Deep Throat.
Including, Woodward says, Deep Throat.
The shadowy source “was risking a great deal personally and professionally,” he said in 1997. “You may assume that in the course of this he was not truthful with colleagues and family members and he denied that he had provided information.”
Washington cannot abide a secret, especially one Dean has called “the best-kept secret in the history of the capital.” So while the particulars of Deep Throat’s exploits have faded in memory for many Americans, for others — politicians, historians, journalists — speculation about his identity remains a favorite parlor game.
Nixon was not immune. Monica Crowley, a young aide to the former president for four years before his death in 1994, quoted Nixon as saying Deep Throat was “someone on the inside. ... One person who thought he had a lot to gain by spilling his guts to those two guys,” someone who wanted to be seen as a liberal because he wanted “a media career.”
“Woodward had a source in the Executive Branch who had access to information at CRP (the Committee to Re-elect the President) as well as at the White House. His identity was unknown to anyone else,” the book says.
Woodward promised he would never identify the source or quote him, even anonymously. The source would confirm information secured elsewhere, and might “add some perspective.”
When he talked with his editors, Woodward called the source “my friend,” until managing editor Howard Simons dubbed him Deep Throat after the porn film in which Lovelace starred. When Woodward wanted to meet, he moved a flower pot with a red flag to the rear of his apartment balcony. When Deep Throat wanted to meet, he got hold of the newspaper delivered to Woodward’s home, circled the number on page 20 and drew clock hands in the circle. Usually, they met at 2 a.m. in an underground parking garage.
And we assume Deep Throat is still alive. Woodward has said he will reveal Deep Throat’s identity only after the source is dead, because if he did it sooner, sources he deals with today might question whether he can keep a confidence.